Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki entered 2010 as a trendy pick to win National League MVP honors.
Coming off a season in which the 25-year-old shortstop finished fifth in MVP balloting and led the Rockies to the playoffs for the second time in his three Major League seasons, it’s hard to blame fans and analysts for jumping on the bandwagon.
He’s a bulky, athletic infielder with a bullet of an arm, the ability to get on base and one of the best natural power strokes in the game. He’s a team leader, a great clubhouse guy and a renowned fan of the game. He’s everything a team could ask for in a middle infielder.
That is, of course, unless you’re looking for someone to produce early in the season. The only knock on Tulowitzki over the last three years has been his penchant for painfully slow starts.
Over three Aprils in Colorado, Tulowitzki has hit .194 with 55 strikeouts and just 18 extra base hits in 247 at bats. Before June 1, Tulowitzki has eight career homeruns, the same number he hit between July 12 and Aug. 13 of last season.
In 2010, Tulowitzki is up to his old tricks. Nine games into the season, the Rockies cleanup man is hitting a paltry .243 with no home runs and four RBIs. His .297 slugging percentage is second to last on the team among players with 15 or more at bats and he has just as many strikeouts as he has hits this season.
None of this is to say that Tulowitzki is destined for failure in 2010. He has roughly 550 more at bats coming this season, and it’s only a matter of time before he rounds into form.
After all, on April 26, 2009, Tulowitzki’s batting average sat at .167. A month later, he had pulled it up to .234 and by the end of the season, Tulowitzki was easily the most dangerous bat in Colorado’s lineup.
He finished the year with a .297 batting average, 32 homers and 92 RBIs. Not so bad after all, especially considering the Rockies got such production out of the shortstop position.
In all likelihood, Rockies fans can expect a similar resurgence this year. Tulowitzki simply has too much talent to continue hitting around the Mendoza line.
After the shortstop’s late season performance in 2009, manager Jim Tracy is unlikely to move him down in the order and is much more likely to wait for him to right the ship and begin producing at his usual clip.
Rockies fans may have to wait right along with the team’s manager in 2010. Make no mistake though, Tulowitzki is one of the great young players in the game. He’ll come around.
In the meantime, we might be stuck watching Ian Stewart, Brad Hawpe and Miguel Olivo carry the Rockies for a while. As long as the team keeps winning, it’s all the same to me.